Bring some sense to drug laws

Last week’s front-page article in the Castlegar News, ‘Marijuana controversy grabs national attention,’ makes me wonder how and when this issue will ever be put to rest.

Last week’s front-page article in the Castlegar News, ‘Marijuana controversy grabs national attention,’ makes me wonder how and when this issue will ever be put to rest.

The zealous efforts of the RCMP to uphold the letter of the law is certainly not in question. The bigger issue is: Why are we continuing to waste law enforcement time and money fighting the proliferation of this plant, but have yet to act on the judgment of our most intelligent research to reform our laws?

The use of cannabis by humans has a long history. Knowing why and how this medicinal plant became targeted as a threat to our society is an eye-opener.

It has been studied to death by our government commissions, appointed committees, professors of criminology, and medical associations. While it is well known that these studies have arrived at the consensus that cannabis use is only a minimal threat to our personal health and that the most efficient way to address abuse is through education, the incentive to change the prohibition laws remains mired in emotions and politics.

At one point it looked like Canada would lead the way to law reform, but this was contrary to the Bush agenda, and he said no. So much for national sovereignty, but that’s another story.

Now many U.S. states are making concessions for the sick and dying and are moving towards legalization. Other countries like Portugal are totally abandoning their failed drug war policies. Meanwhile, here in Canada, despite the weight of science, medical need, and common consensus, our corporate-manipulated government continues to spin unsubstantiated fear through the media for the need to continue the war on this plant. Apparently it is more important to protect the substantial monetary benefits for those who block law reform, like the alcohol and tobacco industries, than to address the underlying failures of our dysfunctional society that buries its pain with addictions.

The reason for the continuance of the status quo has little to do with the plant itself; which has zero deaths attributed to its use. It’s all about the money.

The crime and violence associated with the marijuana business is being generated by prohibitionist policies that create the lucrative black-market. The subsequent violence arises when police forces are subsidized to fight the war on the drug crime which is the direct result of the anti-drug policies. The latest addition to this insanity is mandatory minimum sentences and the creation of private prisons for profit. This scenario makes as much sense as a dog chasing its tail.

The solution presented by our best minds to end this war is to remove the money element from the equation, by introducing a decriminalization policy. This would put an end to the black market profits that spawn the hazardous situation of people setting up illegal grow-ops, stealing power, and having their homes invaded either by the armed police or the criminals.

Unfortunately, only a minority of citizens are asking when will we get to the point of making the changes in our laws that would put an end to the problems being created.

It is ironic that we are providing such a poor example in decision-making and problem-solving for our young people, who we claim to be defending from the evils of  drugs. Unlike most of us, many high school students face the choice to use cannabis from day to day. They can easily see through the failed attempt to protect them with laws. They know that it is totally within their own educated control to say yes or no.

When it comes to making good choices, the biggest incentive we can give our youth is to provide them with a confident enlightened leadership model that overcomes fears and takes charge of any situation. I believe we have the power to end this prohibition problem by initiating new programs for positive change.

Steve Clement

Castlegar